Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Not so Sunny Blenheim

Blenheim and nearby Nelson are usually in a bit of a tussle to see which town wins the “sunniest” category each year.  The way it looks to us over the last few days, Blenheim is lagging a bit behind on the sunshine stakes, with grey skies and overnight rain.    Blenheim is named after the Battle of Blenheim (1704), where troops led by John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough defeated a combined French and Bavarian force.

Isn’t this sad?  A trip to the local Info Centre had the road conditions written up on a board – closed, closed, and closed.  Very necessary information for anyone traveling, of course, but to us Kiwis, we must be wondering when all this extreme weather will stop wrecking our roads.  And the time, effort, and cost needed to get them open again.

Road closures

We stopped to admire the rather handsome clock tower and war memorial, surrounded by colourful gardens.  The clock tower in Blenheim commemorates all those from the Marlborough Province who died in the First World War. Stones in the upper part consist of Amuri limestone, while those in the lower part are greywacke,  to ensure that all areas were represented by incorporating stones collected from different parts of Marlborough.  Built in 1928, plaques have been added to commemorate men lost in the following wars.

Clock Tower and War memorial in Blenheim

Mr Whippy came into camp – it may well be a little chilly, but who can resist to the call of Mr Whippy’s musical notes.  Not us, anyway.  And what a friendly fellow he was.


Staying at the Waterlea Racecourse, as we are, we often hear the sounds of hoof beats on the raceway.  The horses are put through their paces most days, usually bright and early in the morning, although we have seen them out on the track later in the afternoon as well. 


One of our neighbours was all set to depart in the early afternoon, but with all the rain, was stuck fast.  But all was not lost, as Robin sprang into action.  Attaching the strop, he then helped pull the motorhome and trailer out of the muddy hole he was stuck in with our trusty Land cruiser.

Robin to the rescue

We took a trip out to the Wairau Bar after reading about this interesting place.  The Wairau Bar is a 19-hectare (47-acre) gravel bar formed where the Wairau River meets the sea in Cloudy Bay, Marlborough.  This area is one of the oldest archaeological sites in New Zealand. Artefacts have been radiocarbon dated to around 1300 AD.


Wairau Bar

There is also a monument to the European settlers, their wives and families who, from 1832, entered the river bar to found the Province of Marlborough.  A shipping service  for their produce continued until August 1965.   The remains of the old derelict wharf are barely standing, and the sunken hulk of a boat tells of earlier, more prosperous times.

Monument to the settlers who arrived crossing over the bar

Cormorant sunning itself on the boat wreck

Another interesting find were the remains of the old flax mill at nearby Marshlands.  The region’s first mill was built in Marshlands, in the lower Wairau, in 1870.  Marlborough had an abundance of flax growing in swampy areas, and the European settlers soon saw its many uses.   Flax fibre was processed and exported for use in ropes, carpets and woolsacks, and by the 1870s Marlborough was an important flax export district.  Although still standing, most of the buildings are in a state of disrepair, and overgrown, and it felt rather like driving through a ghost town.  But this was certainly a thriving business in it’s time.


The old Flax Mill at Marshlands

That was the end of our exploring in and around Blenheim – and tomorrow we move on to Koromiko, another step closer to boarding the ferry and returning home.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Goodbye Richmond and Hello Blenheim

Sunday was our last day in Richmond, Nelson, and we had a visit in the morning from a couple of bikies.  Robin’s sister Kaye and hubby Jan biked over from their home  to pay us a visit and have a coffee with us. 

Kaye and Jan on their bikes

There was a Gypsy Fair taking place close by, so I went to have a quick look at some of the interesting vans.




All shapes and sizes

On Monday morning we packed up the van in the rain, and set off to our next destination of Blenheim, driving up and over the Bryant Range.  And what a great view, mountain ranges covered in native trees, and swathed with mist – such a pretty sight.

Misty morning driving over the Bryant Range

By the time we reached the Rai Valley it was still wet and miserable, so we stopped for lunch at "The Brick Oven".  What a popular place this was, travelers and truckies galore  stopping for something hot for lunch on such a chilly day. The brick oven is no longer used for baking bread, but we found a picture of it from the old days


The old Brick Oven Bakery in Rai Valley

The rain had cleared when we pulled into Waterlea Racecourse, although the grounds were rather cut up and soggy from the recent rain.  Must be careful where we walk till it all dries out, otherwise we will be up to our ankles in mud.  We stayed here last month for a few days, before we travelled on to Canvastown.

Waterlea Racecourse

It seems that Ex Cyclone Gita caused some damage here last week, with one of the large trees badly damaged in the storm.  Just hope that fallen branch never landed on a sheltering van when it was torn from the tree.

Tree damage at Waterlea Racecourse

We had a very important date in the afternoon.  Marilyn and David, who write their blog Waka Huia were also staying at Blenheim, and invited us around for 4zees.  They were staying at the Blenheim Top 10 Park, in their very new motorhome.  And what a beauty it was, a brand new Swift, which they imported from England.

David and Marilyn with their new motorhome

It was great to catch up with them both again, and we had a lovely afternoon tea/4zees.  Marilyn had whipped up some of her famous cheese scones, and there were nibbles galore, served with our choice of wine, beer or  plunger coffee, it was all very tasty indeed.

What a great spread

They were interested in where we had been, and they told us of their South Island travel plans over the next   five weeks or so.  Favourite POPs, CAPs and NZMCA Parks were discussed, as were batteries, fridges, the Internet, and other important topics. 

Robin, Marilyn and David

The new motorhome is gorgeous, and we wish them safe and happy travels as they do their own South Island trip.  With places to see, roads to travel, and friends to catch up with,  they are sure to have a wonderful time.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

The Great Kiwi Pub Crawl–Pub no 7

The Sprig and Fern, Milton Street, Nelson, is certainly a pub with a difference.  In fact, it doesn’t look like a pub at all – the business is run from a converted villa amongst others of the same vintage in an older part of Nelson.   Small groups were chatting over a beer or two on the front verandah – it all looked very friendly.

Sprig and Fern Tavern

There are now six independently owned Sprig and Fern Taverns in the Nelson region, and another two in Wellington, so they must be on to a winning formula, selling their own craft beers and ciders.  None of the taverns have TV, pokie machines or pool tables.  Their aim is to offer a welcoming atmosphere, with plenty of areas to relax and unwind.


Owner Tracy Banner spent twelve years as head brewer at McCashin’s Brewery in Nelson, then two years as brewery manager at Speight’s Brewery, Dunedin.  Next, as head brewer of Sprig and Fern Brewery in Nelson, and Tracy and her husband became publicans at this lovely little pub in Milton Street.

One thing which makes this pub a little different is the “Shout Board” where customers can pay for a beer for a mate to collect later at their leisure.

Shout Board – buy your mate a beer

We were there in mid afternoon – just in time for a coffee for me.  Robin tried an East Coast IPA craft beer, and was rather pleased with his choice.  We sat outside on the deck, watching the world go by.

Out on the deck

Milton Street - the view from the deck

I’m sure the neighbours don’t really mind this little pub in their midst.  There was no noisy boozy talking amongst the groups of men, all the customers were chatting quietly amongst themselves.  People were coming and going, drinking beer, and eating snacks, and it was all very civilized indeed.  It was rather like sitting on your own deck at home with friends, I thought.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Cable Bay - Schroders Mistake

Just how many Cable Bay’s are there in New Zealand?  I’m sure we have been to at least a couple of them over the years.  We have now visited another one – about 30km from Richmond.  Our trip took us past the Port of Nelson, and along the waterfront.  A couple of the waterfront cafes are still boarded up following storm damage from an earlier storm last month.  No sign of a storm today, and the water looked rather peaceful and sparkled in the sun shine.


We were surprised to see quite a large settlement at Cable Bay, as well as a Motor Camp and Café.  The beach has a boulder bank connecting to Pepin Island that forms part of the Delaware Cable Bay Estuary. Cable Bay was once known as Schroders Mistake, after a Nelson skipper mistook the bay for another and put his boat on the rocks there. The laying of New Zealand's first international telegraph cable gave the bay its modern name. The operation, from Sydney to Cable Bay, took 11 days and transmission began on 21 February 1876. A fire razed the station in 1914 and in 1917 the cable was moved to Titahi Bay, near Wellington.


Cable Bay

It was a short drive up and over the hill and on to Delaware Inlet.

Delaware Inlet’s sea grass and cockle beds provides habitat and refuge for juvenile fish, and are important feeding grounds for many shore birds.  The banded rail has recently been discovered in this area, and a trapping programme to protect these rare birds is now in place.


On our drive back along Pa Road we came across some “rock art” – quite modern it seems.

Rock Art on Pa Road

Back in Nelson City again (named after Admiral Horatio Nelson) – and did you know that the first game of rugby was played in New Zealand was at Nelson?  We decided to head up Botanical Hill – somewhere up there was the “Centre of New Zealand”, the sign read.   Maybe not – we didn’t really want an hour’s walk uphill.


The geographical "centre of New Zealand" allegedly lies in Nelson on a hilltop near the centre of the city. This is the point "zero, zero" from which the first trigonometrical surveys were started in the 1870s by John Spence Browning, the Chief Surveyor for Nelson.  However,  later surveys have shown that when Stewart Island is included, the actual Centre of New Zealand can be found in the Spooners Range in the Golden Downs Forest.

Monument at the top

Although we didn’t make it to the top and actually see the monument, (photo courtesy of the internet) we did get some good views of Nelson Port and City from the hill.


Friday, 23 February 2018

Back in Sunny Nelson

We are back in sunny Nelson again -   known as the “Sunshine Capital of New Zealand”.  Staying once more at the Richmond Motorhome and Caravan Park.  In fact, the camp hosts remembered us from our earlier visit before we went over the ill fated Takaka Hill a week or so earlier, so we must have made a good impression on them.  As the end date of our holiday is fast approaching, we are backtracking as we make our way to the ferry next week.

Staying at Richmond again

Remember the huge gum tree just down the road that we mentioned in an earlier post?  Well, just to show how huge it really is, we stopped and took another photo.  It must have been a monstrous tree before it was chopped down, and reduced to a stump.  The first  photo shows me on this trip, and the second, (another blast from the past) Robin on our last trip here six years ago.

That’s a whoppa tree stump!

Although we had been to Rabbit island back in the dim distant past, I couldn’t really remember what it was like, so we took a drive out there today.  Heavily planted with pine trees, there is still plenty of room for the public to enjoy.  There are picnic areas everywhere, as well as miles of sandy beach.


The beach had lots of people enjoying the warm sunny day, lounging on the sand, or playing in the water.  There was quite a bit of debris on the beach, left over from the storm, no doubt.

At the beach on Rabbit Island

With the pine tree plantation, fire must be an ever present danger – hence the sign we saw. No overnight camping is allowed on Rabbit Island.


We drove along various tracks on the island, and came to an estuary, lovely and peaceful indeed, and spotted a pair of Variable Oystercatchers resting in the sand.  Usually we have seen these birds busily walking along the beach as they probe for food in the wet sand. 

Oystercatchers on the estuary

Then we came across this amusing advertising feature for “Frank’s Trees”, trading at the entry of Rabbit Island – using an old Triumph Herald to showcase his wares.


Trees for sale - this way

Our day out concluded with a visit to a Berry Farm for some fresh strawberries, and a “real fruit” ice-cream – so delicious!

Mmmm, ice-cream!